Iowa’s largest law firm is opening its third office in the state, in Cedar Rapids, which will focus primarily on protecting creations of the mind. Wendy Marsh is an attorney with Nyemaster Goode who works in the type of law known as intellectual property, which includes films, music, books, artwork and inventions.

"In order to protect an invention with a patent, you must demonstrate that the invention is new, useful and non-obvious," Marsh says. "Those sound like factors set in stone but it’s actually a very complicated analysis." Most companies in Iowa have some sort of intellectual property that needs protection, she says, from trademarks to trade secrets, or things like customer lists or employment manuals.

Marsh says people who are just starting up a business, or have an idea for a product, also need to be concerned about intellectual property rights. Marsh says, "There are a lot of inventors in Iowa and my job is to translate their ideas and their inventions into a patent application or a copyright application. Our job is, as an interpreter, to put their ideas in a protectable format." She says there should be no difference from a legal standpoint between trespassing on someone’s land versus trespassing on their intellectual property.

Marsh says intellectual property can be every bit as valuable as real property. "You wouldn’t expect someone to invest their life savings building a luxury hotel and then dedicating it to the public," Marsh says. "In the same way, inventors invest substantial time and money in their own inventions and then their inventions help the general public in many ways."

The firm’s Cedar Rapids office opened this month. Nyemaster Goode also has offices in Des Moines and Ames. The company has about 90 lawyers on staff and was founded in 1918.